Review: Tiffen Dfx V3 Lightroom/Photoshop Plug-In

I’ve been wanting to try out Tiffen’s Dfx V3 Lightroom and Photoshop plug-in for a while now. So I installed it a few weeks ago and started diving in. I’ve gotta tell ya up front. I’m a total onOne Software and Nik Software snob. For a while, I’ve felt that all I needed in a plug-in was covered by those their products, so why even try something else? Now that I’ve played with Dfx for a while I can now see what all the hype is about.

What I Thought Going Into This?
Personally, I don’t long for the days of film to be back. I don’t care much for “film” effects either. I rarely add grain, cross-process, or bleach bypass effects to my photos. Going into this review with Tiffen’s Dfx, I thought that’s what the plug-in was all about. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. There’s A LOT more to it.

Which Version Did I Use?
First off, I used the Photoshop plug-in, the Lightroom version and the standalone version. It’s really a matter of which program you use most but I figure most people will use either the Photoshop or Lightroom versions, rather than the standalone.

The Interface
I found the overall interface pretty easy to get through. I didn’t watch a demo or read a manual or anything, so I had no idea how to navigate around when I first opened it (typical guy right? who needs directions or user guides?!). I thought getting to all of the filters was really easy. In fact, in some ways I like their implementation the best out of all the plug-ins I’ve used.

See, I’ve always been a fan of the old Variations dialog in Photoshop. It’s not around anymore but the way it worked was simple. You’d open it, and the dialog would show you 6 or 7 variations of your photo in small thumbnail previews. You clicked on the one you liked best and that was it. No sliders to mess around with. Well, Dfx’s filters are kinda of similar. At the bottom, you click on the overall “style” of filter you want to apply. Then the Presets panel (on the left in my screenshot below) opens for that filter and you choose which level or intensity of that filter you want to apply. Each one has a thumbnail preview already and you can just pick the one that looks best without messing around with sliders (although you can if you want). Maybe it’s a personal preference but I kinda liked it.

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Customizing The Interface
I also liked the fact that you could customize the interface. They have a version of layering effects that’s almost like layers in Photoshop (which is a good thing because most people are familiar with that concept). But when I first opened it, I noticed the layers were on the left (opposite where they would be in Photoshop). But then I realized you can drag panels where ever you want, like you can in Photoshop, so I was back in my happy place 🙂

The Filters
As I mentioned before, I was really surprised at the filters. I thought Dfx was mostly just recreating traditional photographic lens filters and film effects (which it does a lot of). But there’s a bunch of other stuff in there. The “Light” styled filters were some of my other favorites and I thought the “Texture” filters were really slick too. But if you’re looking for photographic and traditional-style screw on filter effects, I think you’ll see Dfx shines here.

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Thing I’d Like To See
There are a few things I’d like to see improved:

1) The biggest issue I had was the lack of vignette, edge, border and detail-sharpening-like effects. I love Tonal Contrast in both onOne’s Perfect Effects (which is free by the way) and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 4. I love vignettes too. They both have detail/sharpening presets as well which let’s me get some really nice looks and finishing effects in my photos. Now… Dfx does have a Sharpen filter in it but I didn’t feel I got the same look I get elsewhere.

2) The layers-like interface was a little confusing at times. Just the way that things were named was a little too different for me than Photoshop or Lightroom. Now, it’s not bad and I eventually got used to it after about 30 minutes of using the plug-in. On the plus side, they even have layer masks and I thought their version of them (with gradients, spotlights, paths and their EZ Mask option made layer masking MUCH more approachable than you’d see in Photoshop.

Overall Thoughts
As I mentioned in the beginning, I was a total onOne and Nik Software snob. If I’m behing honest, I tried Dfx out just because I thought I had to since I’ve been hearing a lot about it lately, but I had already resigned myself to thinking I wouldn’t like it over my beloved onOne and Nik filters. But I gotta tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only will I not be uninstalling this one, but I have a feeling I’m going to be using it a lot more for certain effects. That said, I always tell people that just about every plug-in out there has a free two-week or 30 day trial and Tiffen is no different. So download for yourself and give them a try because what I’m looking for, could be totally different than what you’re looking for.

Hope this helped. If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave ’em and I’ll do my best to jump in an answer. Have a good one! 🙂